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InnovationXchange: McKesson re-thinks “early talent” for long-term success

Check out our top takeaways from Handshake’s latest InnovationXchange forum with pharmaceutical and health industry care leader, McKesson.

As economic headwinds and a shifting talent climate impact all industries, Nicky Gibson, Sr. Director of Talent Attraction at McKesson, spoke with Handshake’s Jill Stover to share how leaders can map their talent planning to their business’ needs, leverage inclusivity to bolster success, and decide what strategies to start, stop, and double down on this year.

Attracting Gen Z talent with authentic branding

Understanding what Gen Z wants from their job search is paramount for talent leaders who want a reliable pipeline of top talent for their workforce.

“The ability to communicate your brand effectively and authentically is really important. It doesn’t have to be anything big and grand. It’s that authenticity that is able to connect with students,” Nicky says. For McKesson, that means giving candidates a real, unfiltered opportunity to speak with interns and hires currently working in a given role — not just recruiters. “You want people out there who can actually talk about what it’s like to work at McKesson, because nobody knows who McKesson is,” she explains. That’s why creating real, authentic relationships with students is a fundamental tenet of their brand strategy.

When recruiting for an internship program, inviting current interns to meet, engage, and speak with students gives them a truly authentic view of life within the role. Building these relationships early and nurturing them throughout the entirety of the recruiting cycle is how the best get it done. As Jill from Handshake put it, the key is to keep finding ways to engage with candidates earlier in the process, from development days you can host for freshman and sophomore candidates to how you can better engage with candidates prior to ever showing up on campus.

Doubling down on smarter events strategies with data

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become clear that virtual events and hybrid recruiting strategies are here to stay. But as in-person recruiting events and job fairs begin to return to campuses, McKesson is using data from Handshake to optimize their events strategies.

“We have a dedicated analytics team, and we use Handshake to develop a holistic strategy. It’s all about data, data, data, so you know what talent is out there, what isn’t, and where to focus your time and resources."
  • Nicky Gibson, Sr. Director of Talent Attraction at McKesson

“We have a dedicated analytics team, and we use Handshake to develop a holistic strategy. It’s all about data, data, data, so you know what talent is out there, what isn’t, and where to focus your time and resources,” Nicky says. And with many recruiting teams asked to do more than ever with tighter pursestrings and smaller teams, this efficiency is the key to transforming events from being a wasteful cost center to a driver of results.

When it comes to events, efficiency means developing relationships with candidates before your team ever steps foot on campus — allowing them to maximize their time so they can go out and execute like a well-oiled machine. Campaigns in Handshake are a great way to do this, putting plans in place that allow you to improve your execution and truly get the most out of your events.

By using digital tools and data like those in Handshake to supplement and augment your events strategy, organizations of all sizes can make sure even the smallest recruiting teams make a seriously big impact.

Planning for long-term business success with early talent programs

Nicky feels strongly that organizations should view “early talent” as a valuable investment in the long-term success of their business goals.

“We no longer call it ‘early talent’ at McKesson because we don’t stop our engagement at the point of hiring. We call it ‘talent programs,” she says. McKesson has adopted a truly macro view of how their teams source, develop, and advance talent within their organization. Hiring is not just about filling an immediate need with the first available warm body. It’s about creating strategies and robust programs designed to guide, train, and funnel early talent hires from their first entry-level positions into future leadership positions — programs mapped to the long-term goals and needs of the business.

Some mature organizations already have these programs. But in the current rapidly-shifting demands of the market, it's important to frequently revisit those legacy programs with modern eyes and analytics to make sure they’re still solving for modern problems — and meeting the needs of modern talent.

The ultimate investment in your future—growing early talent into senior leadership

Even when it comes to senior-level talent, it’s important to hold a long-term view as you take the temperature of the industry. By 2030, more than 21% of the population will be above retirement age. At the same time, an estimated 42% of the skills and expertise required to perform in a given position capably will only be known by the person currently in that position at an organization.

Investing in developing and upskilling early talent can mitigate that looming retirement wave and skills gap and the strategic uncertainty it will cause competitors in every industry.

External recruitment can come with risks for very senior-level positions. By focusing on the development of talent from within your organization, you benefit from having more data points and the talent’s proven track record of strong performance. They already understand your industry and your company culture.

Not only do you get proven, home-grown talent loyal to your company and who understands your organization, but this method is actually cheaper. Hiring early talent costs up to 50% less than hiring candidates with 3-5 years of experience.

And with a 2022 Handshake survey finding that Gen Z talent will stay at a company more than twice as long (6.5 years) if presented with growth and upskilling opportunities, an investment in early talent is an investment in long-term predictability.


InnovationXchange by Handshake is an invite-only roundtable and wine-tasting series that gathers small groups of leaders in HR, Talent, and DEI to provide a peer-to-peer forum to network and discuss today's most pressing talent challenges. Interested in participating? Check out our upcoming & recent events!

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